Q&A: Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October
Blue October co-founder/singer Justin Furstenfeld has been through hell. The last several years have been filled with a well-documented custody battle for his oldest daughter, mental breakdowns, anxiety attacks and addiction.
Sitting on a couch backstage at Talking Stick Resort and Casino in Scottsdale, AZ, before a recent, sold-out show, Furstenfeld happily said he's blessed. Now sober, he looks healthy. His eyes are filled with happiness.
Smiling widely, Furstenfeld describes his current solo tour as a Q&A/spoken word/acoustic show. "An Open Book: An Evening With Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October" promotes the release of the expanded third edition of his book of lyrics and writings dubbed "Crazy Making," which hit stores April 1.
Furstenfeld, whose band is best known for the hit "Into the Ocean," spoke with SoundSpike about the tour, his dark past and the light at the end of the tunnel.
SoundSpike: How's the tour going so far?
Justin Furstenfeld: It's going really good. It's really mellow and I love it. I didn't expect all these people to show up. I thought maybe 100 people would show up. But so far we've had 400 to 500 people show up and selling out everywhere. It's very nice. I'm very blessed.
We've spoken before on the phone. You seem like you're in such a happier place right now -- not that you weren't friendly before.
Oh, good. I was ready to apologize. [Laughs] I'm very at ease. Very happy. Mainly because of my wife and daughter over there. I don't go on tour without them now. I have a bus that's a completely sober bus and just go out with my wife and daughter and I recognize what is important.
What did you learn in writing the book?
How much I've grown and where I don't want to go again. I'm glad I was so honest with the negative parts of my life. They're pretty embarrassing. They're pretty out there. When I read it back I'm kind of like, "Whew, man, that's a growth spurt right there." I think that's what I learned the most. I know what I don't want to be and what I want to continue to be.
Was the book a difficult journey for you.
Life itself, yeah. Noting it down was the only thing that was saving me. Life in general was a difficult journey. My whole career has been one big life story of how hard it was. Now it's not like that. Life doesn't have to be that hard if you just recognize there are beautiful miracles out there everywhere. So now it wasn't hard for me. It was easy.
How's it selling so far?
Great. We're almost sold out of it. It keeps selling. I'm just more proud because I finally have something I did by myself and I can go, "OK, it's true. It's honest. It's great."
How did your family react to the book?
Don't know yet [he said making a squeamish face]. It only came out four days ago. They haven't gotten a copy yet. They'll love me unconditionally.
They'll probably be very proud of you.
Oh, thank you. My wife read it the other night on the bus and I came in there and she was crying. I said, "You all right?" She said, "I just read your book. "
What is the status of Blue October these days?
We just finished our album. It's probably one of the most enjoyable experiences, the hardest experience working on the album. It's completely sober and completely present. You can't just say, "I'm going to I'm going to walk out and smoke a joint real quick. I'm going to drink a glass of wine, then I'll really get into it." It's present. It's a totally different perspective. Not jaded whatsoever. I have to think of it like Lance Armstrong. We all thought he won because he won. I'm not going to take his inventory or anything, but I never thought about it that way until I saw him on TV begging for everybody's [forgiveness]. It's like the same thing with art. It didn't come from you. It came from that drug. It came from that place that made you that way. This album is digging deep. Writing about being happy is very hard. You don't want to just go out there and [sings] "I'm so happy, motherfucker." You have to throw in an "f" bomb. It's not like that. You think of the things that make you happy. Life's not like that. I don't think there's one song that goes, "I'm happy" at all. There are songs like "Not Broken Anymore" that I wrote for my wife. Chokes me up. [Furstenfeld starts to tear up.] It just comes from a real place. [It says] "This is who I am and I'm so sorry for things I've done for you. Will you take me for who I am now?" It's such a peaceful place because you're powerless over if they say no or yes.
What was your songwriting process for the album? It must have been different than the past.
I always have 150 to 200 ideas at all times. I'm always writing. I knew where I wanted to go with it. A lot of the ideas I wrote when I was very [dark] place. I was just losing my mind. They're very dark musically. Lyrically I scratched everything and had to write completely present and had to rearrange the music to add my new place in life. The songwriting process was quite a worry. I'm used to just going , "You know what, I can't figure these lyrics out [makes sniffing noise, and then makes a speedy gesture]. Done." You gotta sit down. You gotta focus. You have to work. It's not just play. You gotta work. Then it came out so different. When I listened to it, I thought, "Oh my God. That came out of my soul, not out of some dark dungeon or some backstage area when I had too much wine." It came from a real place. The album is more empowering. It's sexy. It's beautiful and it's heavy rock.
When does the album come out and do you have a name yet?
No, no name. Aug. 20. We're hoping to drop the first single in June. The first single is either going to be "Bleed Out," which is a song that I wrote in my wife's perspective when I was a complete mad man. The chorus is like, "bleed out/ I gave it all but you can't stop taking from me/ and way down I know you where to cut me with your eyes closed." It still sounds like that's dark, but I know it's not coming from me. It's coming from my wife's perspective. When my wife hears it, she's like, "Yeah, motherfucker. That was me." She's a strong lady. There are other songs on the album, too. "Angels and Everything," "Hard Candy." I can't wait to show it to everybody. It's a great album.
Who produced the album?
I produced "Foiled" and I loved the results, so I produced this one. It was great. I love to have control, but I need to give some away. Being a producer, it helps you keep the ropes in. You can't just go, "Oh we're in a rock band. It's just rock 'n' roll." No it's not. This is a project. It's like building a castle. If you take one of the cinder blocks out and you put it there, it'll all fall down.
What else do you have planned for 2013?
Tour ,tour, tour. Score a few documentaries Write, take my wife and my daughters to the beach for the first vacation I've had probably in I don't know how long. It's not for me. It's mainly to get to spend time with both of my daughters and my wife. And just thank God for all the stuff he's given us.
17 - Tulsa, OK - The Vanguard
18 - Dallas, TX - Lakewood Theater
19 - Austin, TX - Paramount Theatre
1 - New York City, NY - City Winery
2 - Cambridge, MA - The Sinclair
3 - Washington, D.C. - The Hamilton
4 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of the Living Arts
5 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom and Tavern
7, 8 - Chicago, IL - Mayne Stage Theatre
9 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark
13 - Cincinnati, OH - 20th Century Theatre
14 - Atlanta, GA - Center Stage Theater
15 - Nashville, TN - 3rd and Lindsley
16 - Little Rock, AR - Juanita's Cantina Ballroom